How to get more referrals from a networking group
By Michael Goldberg
Building Blocks Consulting
I was inspired recently by a question asked of me by a top producer at, well, a top producers meeting: "I belong to a referral group that has met once a week for the past four months. No sales yet. What could I be missing?"
I guess you can see why I didn’t use this as the title. Anyway, great question nonetheless!
It’s hard to say what this agent is missing, since I’m not attending the events with him. That said, I answered his question with a few more questions. (I’m funny like that.) Only he knows the answers — which became yet another discussion. If you’re part of a networking group, chamber, association, or whatever, ask yourself the following questions and consider my insight.
Are you attending every meeting?
You can’t just show up to networking meetings when you feel like it. (I’m tempted to use the term willy-nilly.) You must be an active and frequent participant in an effort to put your time in. Remember, it’s all about the relationship. If you focus on relationship, the business will be there. And how can you focus on developing relationships if you’re not attending enough meetings?
Are you paying attention to other members of the group when they’re speaking?
If the meeting is structured (hard contact networking group) and attendees get an opportunity to deliver a presentation (some groups offer 30 seconds or a minute), it’s time for you to take note (yes, literally take notes so you can follow up on what you’re listening to) and see who you need to get to know. Why? So you can help them and they can help you. If you and other members are more focused on the bagels and coffee, there are missed opportunities – for everyone.
Are fellow members paying attention to you?
You can only expect this privilege if you pay attention to them (see above). That said, you must deliver a meaningful presentation or elevator pitch that is articulate, a bit entertaining, planned, focused and that contains a call to action. A good model I’ve referred to in the past is the PEEC Statement: your profession, expertise, environments (target market) and call to action (who you want to meet or become connected with). If you can do this and change it up slightly for every meeting, you’re on your way. Hint: Costumes and props work well!
Are you meeting with other members one-on-one or in small groups?
Why? So you can learn more about them and their businesses. So you can learn how to refer them business. So you can get to know what they do when they’re not talking business. So you can build solid relationships. So they can get to know you and refer you lots of business. Focus on the relationship and the business will be there. Are you seeing a theme? Are you generating referral business to other members?
One of the best ways to establish trust and build relationships is to refer business to other group members. But first, you must make sure they are absolutely awesome at what they do. Speak to their clients and see what they say. Also, when you generate referrals, insure they are sound — as in, they have a great chance of turning into closed business. Otherwise, they may not be referrals.
Are you likeable?
This is a tough and loaded question. Do you like talking to other people? And do they like talking to you? Typically, these dynamics go hand in hand. If you like hanging out with others and you find yourself laughing a lot, getting introduced to others and being invited to outside events like golf, this is a good sign. If this is not the case, you want to be honest with yourself. Ask for direct feedback from those you trust to determine how you might come across to other people. Although it may not be the thing you want to hear, it might be what you need to hear. And then, work on it.
Do you like the other members?
Again, this is similar to the above but it’s important that you have chemistry with most of the members of any given group; otherwise, they won’t refer you business. It’s just that simple. It might be a good approach to focus on venues that attract those with common interests, such as becoming active at a fundraiser because you’re passionate about helping those with Parkinson’s. Typically, true networkers like other true networkers, so try to go where they go.
Are you clearly communicating the type of business you’re after?
You must be specific about what you do and with whom. Why? So your network can help connect you with all the right
people. The more specific you are about communicating your message, the easier it will be to get connected.
Do some of the other members come in contact with the type of business you seek?
Are there successful centers of influence or referral sources (CPAs, attorneys, property and casualty brokers, etc.) in the group with whom you’re building positive relationships? If not, why not? Should there be? Can you invite them and get them to become members?
If you’re attending networking meetings, chamber mixers, association functions, speed networking events and other venues, ask yourself these questions and be honest with your answers. Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say you’re taking all of these approaches? Networking requires work — as in net-work.
Is it time to get to work?